Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Gerontology Institute

First Advisor

Dr. Ann Pearman

Second Advisor

Dr. Tricia King

Third Advisor

Dr, Greg Brack


The purpose of this study was to examine age differences in cortisol reactivity and memory performance in younger and older adults exposed to cognitive stressors. The current study utilized data from the Anxiety, Memory, and Control study (ACME) conducted at Brandeis University. Stress was measured using a subjective assessment of anxiety and cortisol was measured using a saliva sample. Memory performance was measured using both declarative and working memory tasks. The final sample consisted of 28 younger adults (M = 19.8 years, SD = 1.5) and 29 older adults (M = 71.2 years, SD = 6.6). There were significant age differences in cortisol reactivity with older adults showing increases in cortisol and younger adults showing decreases. Cortisol reactivity was not significantly related to memory performance for either age group. Cortisol reactivity did not differentially affect declarative or working memory. The results suggest age and task anxiety are significantly related to memory performance but cortisol reactivity is not.


Included in

Sociology Commons